Incipit Mrs Dalloway Analysis Essay

The story also uses several juxtapositions. The story uses events and layers of events to form a framing device for these comparisons. The large event is the Clarissa Dalloway’s party, which is the only reason the events of the book occur. All the smaller events of the story (such as the character’s interactions) are naturally apart of this larger frame. The story continues to layer events on top of events to form the story, narrative, and characters.
The indication of the large framing device comes early on. When Clarissa is looking for flowers, the narratives switches to her many many thoughts and tangents as she goes about her day, involving other people or herself. These beginning tangents are where we learn of her party. “…since her people were courtiers once in the time of the Georges, she, too, was going that very night to kindle and illuminate; to give her party (5)”. She begins to meet with people on the course of her errand, such as Peter Walsh. We get another framing device for him in Clarissa’s memory early on in the story when recalling her young adulthood, on pg. 1:
“…which she could hear now, she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen  as she then was) solemn, feeling as she did, standing there at the open window… Peter Walsh     said, ‘Musing among the vegetables?’—was that it?—’I prefer men to cauliflowers’—was that it? He must have said it at breakfast one morning when she had gone out on to the terrace—Peter   Walsh. He would be back from India one of these days, June or July, she forgot which, for his    letters were awfully dull; it was his sayings one remembered; his eyes, his pocket-knife, his smile, his grumpiness and, when millions of things had utterly vanished—how strange it was!—a few sayings like this about cabbages.”
Here we have an introduction to a story within a story, and the intro to a character interaction, as well as background information of a character. These type of framing devices-tangents-are also used to develop the section’s character, though we can see their thoughts documented meticulously, instead of having the character explained to us such as Hugh Whitbread. “and who should be coming along…who but Hugh Whitbread; her old friend Hugh—the admirable Hugh(5)!”
A larger theme is the idea of juxtaposition or duality. Some examples of duality are Hugh’s and Clarissa’s place in society, Septimus’ and Peter’s return to England experiences, and one of the most important, Clarissa and Septimus.
Septimus is a shell shocked WW1 veteran. Upon returning to England, he finds living or appreciating life becomes more and more difficult. Our first indication of him gives us a frame of reference for his current state of mind when he sees the motor car in front of

Septimus from the 1997 film

Mulberry’s. He is described by the book as having “…hazel eyes which had that look of apprehension…The world has raised its whip; where will it descend(14)?” Just later we have an example of forshadowing to his fate, “…the world wavered and quivered and threatened to burst into flames. It is I who am blocking the way, he thought. Was he not being looked at and pointed at; was he not weighted there, rooted to the pavement, for a purpose? But for what purpose(15)?” He is trying to find out why he is still here. We have Lucrezia, his wife beside him, continuing to stay with him even though we know that she is not as happy as she once was with him:“But Lucrezia Warren Smith was saying to herself, It’s wicked; why should I suffer? she was asking, as she walked down the broad path. No; I can’t stand it any longer, she was saying,             having left Septimus, who wasn’t Septimus any longer [comparing old Septimus to new Septimus], to say hard, cruel, wicked things, to talk to himself, to talk to a dead man, on the seat over there; when the child ran full tilt into her, fell flat, and burst out crying” (63-4).
Septimus was also plagued by visions of his dead friend, Evans, often causing him torment.

Peter Walsh had a somewhat contrasting return to England. He had come back from India and went to see Mrs.  Dalloway, who he had once been in love with. Here he contrasts with Septimus, who has Lucrezia by his side while he is alive. He later has a delusion of walking down the street and seeing a nurse he once loved back in India. He follows her until the vision disappears. Though it may not have been a hallucination similar to the one of Evans, it shows how they contrast in their ultimate goals, Peter wants to be closer to people, whereas Septimus is drifting away.
Clarissa also is juxtaposed with Septimus. They are described as being bird-like in some way. Septimus is “about thirty, pale-faced, beak-nosed(14).” Where Clarissa is seen as having “a touch of the bird about her, of the jay, blue-green…(4).” But they also are two characters who reflect upon their lives and the meaning of life. The characters can be seen as two sides of the same coin, Clarissa being a hostess, and therefore very savvy of social laws customs, while Septimus is insane, and cannot act inside societies normal laws. Though they both speak about class and meaning of their lives and identity, they ultimately can be seen as one world view split into two different lives; one  has not conformed to society, and the other has.

Discussion Questions:

1) Many critics find that Clarissa and septimus are each other’s doppelgangers, alter egos, and perhaps even mirror images. In what ways are Clarissa and Septimus similar? How are they different?

2) At the time Virginia Woolf wrote Mrs. Dalloway, she was still trying to find her voice as an author. Does this style of writing work for her? What other styles could she have used to tell this story?

3) The stream of consciousness displayed in the text is supposed to simulate real chains of thought. Does it seem realistic? Are there any instances where you feel it seems especially genuine or, perhaps, phony?

4) The affect World War I had on Septimus was obvious. How did the war affect Clarissa? Were any of the other characters affected in a meaningful way?

5) Clarissa has had three love interests; Peter Walsh, Sally Seton, and her husband Richard Dalloway. Contrast these three characters. What differences and similarities from the text could have attracted Mrs. Dalloway to each of them?

6) What does this day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway reveal about the culture of post WWI London? How does this differ from the Victorian London of Oliver Twist or the London of Journal of the Plague Year?

7) Are there any other themes or motifs that you notice were not mentioned above? What examples are there in the text?

For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can’t be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life.

(See Important Quotations Explained)


Clarissa Dalloway, an upper-class, fifty-two-year-old woman married to a politician, decides to buy flowers herself for the party she is hosting that evening instead of sending a servant to buy them. London is bustling and full of noise this Wednesday, almost five years after Armistice Day. Big Ben strikes. The king and queen are at the palace. It is a fresh mid-June morning, and Clarissa recalls one girlhood summer on her father’s estate, Bourton. She sees herself at eighteen, standing at the window, feeling as if something awful might happen. Despite the dangers, and despite having only a few twigs of knowledge passed on to her by her childhood governess, Clarissa loves life. Her one gift, she feels, is an ability to know people by instinct.

Clarissa next runs into her old friend Hugh Whitbread. Hugh and Clarissa exchange a few words about Hugh’s wife, Evelyn, who suffers from an unspecified internal ailment. Beside the proper and admirable Hugh, Clarissa feels self-conscious about her hat.

Past and present continue to intermingle as she walks to the flower shop. She remembers how her old friend Peter Walsh disapproved of Hugh. She thinks affectionately of Peter, who once asked her to marry him. She refused. He made her cry when he said she would marry a prime minister and throw parties. Clarissa continues to feel the sting of his criticisms but now also feels anger that Peter did not accomplish any of his dreams.

She continues to walk and considers the idea of death. She believes she will survive in the perpetual motion of the modern London streets, in the lives of her friends and even strangers, in the trees, in her home. She reads lines about death from a book in a shop window. Clarissa reflects that she does not do things for themselves, but in order to affect other people’s opinions of her. She imagines having her life to live over again. She regrets her face, beaked like a bird’s, and her thin body. She stops to look at a Dutch picture, and feels invisible. She is conscious that the world sees her as her husband’s wife, as Mrs. Richard Dalloway.

Clarissa looks in the window of a glove shop and contemplates her daughter, Elizabeth, who cares little for fashion and prefers to spend time with her dog or her history teacher, Miss Kilman, with whom she reads prayer books and attends communion. Clarissa wonders if Elizabeth is falling in love with Miss Kilman, but Richard believes it is just a phase. Clarissa thinks of her hatred for Miss Kilman, which she is aware is irrational, as a monster.

A car backfires while Clarissa is in the flower shop, and she and several others turn to observe the illustrious person passing in a grand car. They wonder if it is the queen or the prime minister behind the blinds. The car inspires feelings of patriotism in many onlookers.

Take the Part 1: From the opening scene, in which Clarissa sets out to buy flowers, to her return home. Early morning–11:00 a.m. Quick Quiz

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Take the Part 1: From the opening scene, in which Clarissa sets out to buy flowers, to her return home. Early morning–11:00 a.m. Quick Quiz

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